Let’s face it, consumer purchasing habits no longer follow a linear path.
The growing number of places people can discover, research, purchase or even advocate from have made the pathway to purchase less predictable than ever - and made marketers’ jobs that much more challenging.
One of the hardest parts of modern marketing is producing enough engaging content to keep all your customer touchpoints fresh and relevant to audiences, no matter where they may be in their buying process. For the average consumer brand, that could mean creating and sourcing hundreds or even thousands of images alone, every month.
But instead of wasting tons of time and money creating picture-perfect visuals for all your marketing activities, you could be tapping into the wealth of real photos and videos consumers constantly create and share online.
Think about it - your customers are capturing unvarnished brand experiences every day, the same experiences that you and your teams are tirelessly striving to recreate. The sheer volume and authenticity of this user-generated content (UGC) will always outpace and outperform the brand-created content marketers increasingly sink large amounts of resources into, only to see diminishing returns on that investment.
Today’s leading marketers have come to the realization that the traditional way we think about visual content creation is flawed at best, and unsustainable at worst. To create truly authentic and engaging experiences, at scale, marketers must be able to take customer content from anywhere, and optimize it everywhere, actively building a rich library of unique visuals that can fuel personalization at every touchpoint.
The following are just a few examples of brands that have shifted towards this more scalable, customer-centric approach to visual content marketing.
Here are six different ways brands are surfacing the best, most relevant content from across social networks, and seamlessly putting that content to work alongside their branded assets.
Virgin Holidays Improves the Impact of their Ads with #SeizeTheHoliday
Major ad campaigns have long been left in the hands of creative agencies, but sometimes your customers can be your best advertisers.
When Virgin Holidays rebranded themselves in September 2016 with the launch of their “Seize The Holiday” campaign, they decided to showcase the content their customers were posting while on holiday, instead of commissioning costly professional ad creative.
“We really wanted to take it away from the celebrity ether and root it in real people doing authentic things on holiday,” said Claire Cronin, Virgin Holidays Former Vice President of Customer and Marketing.
Asking customers to share their holiday adventures - using the hashtag #SeizeTheHoliday - they requested users’ permission to use their content, then published real customer videos and images on digital billboards throughout the UK. They even created a live TV ad featuring real-time customer experiences in 18 global destinations.
With their user-generated content campaign, Virgin Holidays not only won 'Campaign of the Year' from Marketing Week, but hey also boosted online bookings by 260%.
Busabout’s UGC-Powered Website & Interactive Map
Your website is the virtual storefront to your brand - it’s your chance to make a good first impression and inspire people to take action. By putting UGC front and center, you can build consumer trust, showcase social proof and boost online engagement.
To take advantage of the thousands of real moments their customers were capturing and sharing on social media during their trips, group adventure tour company, Busabout, updated their website so that 99% of it featured UGC images.
“We wanted to inspire potential travelers by showing just how rich the experience is - from the classic European landmarks and the hidden gems to the social atmosphere that is inherent to Busabout,” said Duncan Robertson, Managing Director at Busabout.
And to make their web experience even more engaging, they created an interactive map visualization of the best social content their customers were posting in real time. Visitors can see authentic traveler photos as they’re happening, with the ability to click through on all of Busabouts destinations to find potential stops for their own adventure.
By creating this authentic and interactive web experience, Busabout increased their average time on site by 39% and grew UK bookings by 9%.
Expedia’s #EyeWanderWin Competition Builds High-Quality Library of Unique Visuals
Competitions are a great way to engage and reward your customers, while also sourcing more of the types of content you want customers to publish about your brand.
Looking to engage travelers, and also expand their creative asset library with compelling images, Expedia Singapore launched their #EyeWanderWin contest, in which they asked people to submit their best travel photos for a chance to win free trip to a mystery destination.
Over the 3-week contest, they displayed photo submissions on their contest site as well as their travel blog. When the contest closed, over 4,350 traveler photos had been submitted and they were able to increase their blog traffic 34% month-over-month.
“With this contest, we were able to get photos from people in places they truly care about visiting, and they were unique,” said Rebecca Pinnavanam, SEO Specialist at Expedia Singapore. “We can better localize our online experiences for our Asian markets with this large library of authentic traveler content.”
Tito’s Uses Social Commerce to Shorten Path To Purchase
Social media is no longer just about driving conversations, it’s also about driving commerce. And authentic social content - particularly images and videos - can be a powerful way to show online shoppers products in real-world scenarios.
Although they started as a small distillery in Austin, Texas, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is now one of the fastest growing spirits brands in America. As part of their commitment to supporting animals, net proceeds from their Vodka For Dog People merchandise goes towards helping local and national animal rescues.
To help provide social proof for online shoppers, Tito’s features interactive UGC carousels on their eCommerce pages, making their customers’ dog photos actionable by providing a direct link from that content to the purchase page for products featured in the images.
“Before, the only social content we had on our site was just a stream of our tweets,” Katy Gelhausen, Tito’s Web & Social Media Coordinator said. “Now we can elevate our customer content and have the ability to actually make it actionable.”
Amazfit Boosts Email CTRs with UGC
Emails have long been one of the most effective tools in a marketer’s disposal, particularly when it comes to re-engaging past customers and inspiring repeat purchases. You can keep your emails fresh and personalized by infusing them with authentic visual content.
To cultivate trust and awareness with online consumers, smartwatch and fitness tracker brand, Amazfit, knew they needed to put customer stories at the forefront of their marketing. “[Your customers] are the ones that can create word-of-mouth and provide third-party validation for others in the form of social proof,” said Frederik Hermann, Amazfit’s Head of Marketing & Sales.
Wanting to display how customers were using their products, Amazfit integrated UGC widgets into nearly every email newsletter they sent to their audiences, displaying the latest social content their customers were creating, while incentivizing others to post about them online by offering discounts or giveaway rewards.
Not only has this excited their existing audiences, but it’s also helped boost their email click-through rates by 8%.
VisitScotland Opens The World’s First Instagram Travel Agency
Whether you’re hosting an annual event, a pop-up sale, or simply have live screens at your physical locations, UGC can be a great way to shine a spotlight on your customers while creating more relatable experiences.
Looking to entice Millennial Londoners to book a Scottish holiday, Scotland’s National Tourist Organization, VisitScotland, came up with the idea to create the world’s first Instagram travel agency in London.
Upon arrival, potential travelers were greeted with floor-to-ceiling digital screens, displaying hundreds of Instagram photos that people were taking across Scotland. Visitors could select their favorite Instagram pictures and use them to curate their ideal Scottish holiday itinerary.
Putting this digital twist on an old school travel agency helped them successfully win over Millennials, growing their Instagram followers by 23% month-over-month, and increasing overnight visits to Scotland by London-based Millennials by 34%.
How are you creating engaging visual content experiences for your audiences?